July 23, 2008

Food Pictures

Every once in a while I come across some food photography that I really, really like. Sometimes I find it in recipe booklets or on recipe cards and other times it might be in a magazine or catalog. There's an awful lot of good stuff on the web too.

Somehow I've managed to miss seeing these very clever print ads from the Beef Checkoff people in the magazines. Their Beefscapes advertising campaign is promoting the "Power of Lean Beef" to consumers and they've managed to create some tasty-looking mountains, a beach, a river, some flatlands, a canyon and a cliff from mere pieces of meat. These ads will stick in my mind for a long time to come.

Every once in a while I receive a catalog in the mail from Allen Brothers (the Steakhouse Steaks people). The photographs of the rare beef, veal and lamb in their catalog look so appetizing it almost makes me cry. I LOVE rare beef. Order your own catalog from their website and see for yourself.

Despite finding it difficult to let go of postcards, recipe booklets, cookbooks and all other manner of ephemera and useless paper, I don't seem to have a problem with stray catalogs piling up. These are about the only ones I keep. I'm sure my heirs will thank me someday.

July 22, 2008

Garden Update

I haven't updated you on the progress of my vegetable garden lately, mainly because it's been a somewhat less-than-optimal garden season. Who wants to look at pictures of or read about a wilted, pitiful garden?

There are a couple of reasons why it's turned out badly.

It's been warm outside. Hot, actually. Get-back-inside-the-air-conditioning-by-9:15-am hot. The dog days of August hot since the beginning June.

It's rained only once since the garden was put in. Oh, it's rained a bit all around us, just not on this particular block. A garden cannot thrive on city water alone. No matter how many gallons of it are applied on a daily basis. It needs the nutrients the rain provides to really thrive.

Other gardens around town haven't done well either, so I'm not alone.

The zucchini and yellow squash did fairly well. Well enough so that we've been eating squash nearly every day. I was entertaining the idea of zucchini tacos when the plants finally played out for good. Some people around here are really happy the squash is ending because they never liked squash in the first place. The very suggestion of zucchini tacos was vetoed immediately.

The tomatoes didn't produce very well, although they did produce enough so that I could make fresh salsa about once a week. Good thing, since I've kind of been avoiding Mexican restaurants since May. I fixed a lot of cucumber and tomato salads. Not with our cucumbers though. Although the cucumber plants grew, they never got past the blossom stage.

Green beans were planted four times in two different areas. Three times the seeds sprouted, the plants grew about four inches tall, and then they turned brown and died. In one bed, the plants actually grew and developed blossoms. I could see little micro-green beans, and then ... nothing. They would have been perfect for Barbie if she were whipping up a Barbie-size meal.

We got a few Japanese eggplants. Enough to satisfy my craving for fried eggplant anyway.

The Jalapeno and serrano peppers produced a few peppers, enough for the salsa, but not much more. The pablano peppers and bell peppers were downright sad.

At the end of May we planted two different kinds of cantaloupes from seed. I forget the varieties offhand, but one kind was the regular-size fruit and the other was the "personal" size.

They started off great. Beautiful, beautiful plants, sprawling and blooming like crazy. Lots of blossoms. Lots of fruit. The other day we harvested a few of the personal size. I happily ran into the house to get the camera and a butcher knife, anticipating, finally, a decent cantaloupe, and one that I didn't have to pay $4.00 for.

Aren't they pretty?

I can't describe the disappointment I felt when I took the first bite and discovered that they were ... not sweet. Absolutely tasteless. Much like many of the ones we've gotten from the supermarket this year.

Perhaps the larger ones will turn out better, but I don't have high hopes. We'll see.

It's not like I don't have help. Expert help at that. My gardening partner has successfully grown and shipped millions of pounds of cantaloupes from the Rio Grande Valley in his time. "Sometimes it's just like this," he says. He's disappointed too, but takes it in stride. At age 84 and a farmer most of his life, he's seen his share of crops that didn't make it for one reason or another.

I could never be a farmer.

I'm now anticipating the fall growing season. Where we can give tomatoes another try. And we'll be able to plant all of the vegetables that don't thrive well in the Texas summer heat. One of the benefits of living where the growing season is so long is that we get a second chance.

The good news about the heat and lack of rainfall is that the weeds haven't grown much either. Not a lot of time was spent in the weeding department.

Hopefully, it won't turn out to be unusually wet fall.

July 16, 2008

Walker's Austex Chile Co.

While packing for a trip last week, I ran across this little gem in the flat pocket of my suitcase. According to the accompanying receipt, it had evidently been there for several years. Too bad there weren't any forgotten hundred-dollar bills instead--they certainly would've come in handy.

Rare Recipes (undated, 16 pages) is a tiny pamphlet that was published by Walker's Austex Chile Co. of Austin, Texas. It looks like it might have been published sometime in the 1930s. I love the colors and the illustrations!

Here are a couple of interesting recipes from the booklet. The Table of Contents lists these and several other recipes.


Four tomatoes, three green sweet peppers, one onion, four slices bacon, one-half cup vinegar, one teaspoon Red Devil MEXENE Chile Powder.

Dice vegetables and mix; cook bacon crisp in frying pan, stir in MEXENE Chile Powder, add vinegar and when it boils up, pour over diced vegetables. Serve on lettuce.


1/4 teaspoon Red Devil MEXENE Chile Powder
2 tablespoonfuls butter

Cream the butter until it is smooth and easy to spread. Then add the Chile Powder and blend thoroughly. Spread the crackers with the chile butter and crisp either in a hot oven of 400 degrees F., or under a low broiler, heat until golden brown. Enough for six saltines.

This MEXENE Sandwich Butter makes a delicious spread for cold roast sandwiches.

Mexene Chili Powder is now distributed by Bruce Foods. They have a free Chili Dog Recipe Booklet that you can download in PDF format.

The Austex brand canned Chili and Tamales are now owned by Castleberry's.

July 14, 2008

Cheaper Cuts of Meat

I was trying to remember what kind of advertising premiums or giveaways I'd ever received from my bank. A cheap plastic pen. A paper calendar that fit up along the top edge of my computer monitor (that I asked for after I saw one on an employee's desk). A coffee cup. That's about it. Maybe larger depositors get larger gifts. If I ever received anything as interesting (or useful) as a recipe booklet, I'd probably faint.

The Superior Savings and Trust Company of Cleveland, Ohio published such a booklet for their customers back in the early part of the 1900s. Below is an old postcard that shows an interior view of their location in the Rockefeller Building.

Their publication Cheaper Cuts of Meat (1917, 40 pages) was probably every bit as effective as an advertising calendar, which also used to be quite popular with banks and other merchants. I have two current year advertising calendars on the wall right now--one from a Chinese restaurant and one from a burger joint. Sometimes I'm too lazy to click on my computer calendar.

The name and location of the company is displayed prominently in red text at the bottom of every single page, accompanied by short snippets of financial advice. Many of these tips on thriftiness and saving served to promote services offered by their institution.

The basic theme of the booklet was to show housewives how they could use less expensive cuts of meat to provide their families with nutritious and healthful meals while at the same time battling the "HIGH COST OF LIVING." The high cost of living seems to be a never-ending problem. Today, though, the banks don't want us to save, they want us to borrow.

Although I'm calling it a giveaway, the booklet actually had a price of 25 cents printed on the the first page, so maybe it wasn't really free. Perhaps they gave it away to selected customers. The Inflation Calculator says, "what cost $.25 in 1917 would cost $4.71 in 2007." If my bank were selling a recipe booklet, I suspect it would be priced at $19.95.

They use French housewives for comparison purposes:

The French housewife will buy ten cent's worth of tough meat and with the addition of bread and a few vegetables will make a delicious stew. This will afford a better dinner for three persons than the American housewife can furnish with beefsteak, potatoes, vegetables and dessert at a cost of at least ten times the price the French woman paid. This simple meal will give all the nourishment required without overloading the stomach with indigestible pastry and other waste products.

Every American housewife would give a little time and careful attention to the study of food and food values. She should learn the art of cooking so that she can prepare appetizing dishes from meat and other foods and combining both so as to only have to add a small quantity of meat. She would soon find that she could provide an astonishing variety of nutritious and palatable meals for half the money she is now spending on food.
Included are several diagrams that show the different cuts of meat that come from beef, veal, lamb and mutton, and pork. In today's supermarkets, I'm not sure there are any cheap cuts of veal and lamb.

Here are some of the tips and advice:

Your bank account is the barometer that will show you whether or not you are really thrifty.

Thrift is not confined to the saving of money. That is only an ultimate result. Thrift means acquiring all you can, conserving as much as possible, and making the most of what you have.

When peace is declared hundreds of opportunities to make money will present themselves to the wise person who has the necessary money to his credit in the bank.

We have been charged time and time again with being a Nation of spenders--and we are. Statistics prove that.

Thrift does not only mean not spending dollars and cents. It means putting your dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, and yes pennies into a savings account where they will grow with the aid of compound interest.

No one ever got rich by mere chance. Whatever your occupation may be, persistent effort is what will make you succeed. Open a savings account with The Superior Savings & Trust Company, be persistent with your savings.

Every woman should have a checking account. The check is a receipt in itself, saving the possibility of further trouble.

Women find it a real, genuine pleasure to do banking at The Superior Savings & Trust Company. The service of our officers and tellers is courteous and helpful.

The good citizen is thrifty and saving. The bank depositor not only helps himself, but he contributes to the nation's prosperity.

Every child should be taught when young the value of money. A real savings account in a bank will be the best teacher.
Some examples of frugal meat recipes from 1917 found in this booklet:


2 lbs. mutton off shoulder
2 cupfuls of water
2 tablespoons savory drippings
salt, pepper, parsley
1 onion
1 cupful cooked lima beans

Cut meat into small pieces. Melt drippings, add onions and fry until brown. Add meat, salt and pepper, brown; cover with water, cook until tender. Serve on a platter with cooked and seasoned lima beans around it. Garnish with springs of parsley.


2 lbs pork off leg
1/4 lb. salt pork
salt, pepper
summer savory

Grind meat, add seasoning, form into small cakes and fry until done. Remove cakes to platter, pour off some of the fat in pan and make a brown gravy.


Shave uncooked cured pork off shoulder very thin, fat and lean together. Put in a frying pan over fire, stir until it curls, add a little boiling water, bring to a boil and serve. You may add milk and cream it slightly with flour mixed with water, when creamed, serve on toast.

I had to look up frissled (frizzled) to see exactly what it meant.

July 05, 2008

Nutrition Education

There are industry trade groups associated with just about every food type you can think of. Beans, olives, milk, fruit, nuts, beef, chicken, wine--you name it, there's probably an international, national or regional group representing it. These associations usually aren't promoting a particular brand name, but like the food companies, they too, often publish promotional recipe pamphlets as part of their advertising efforts.

One of my posts last May was about an educational gelatine cookbook published for students and young cooks. That particular booklet contained product information, cooking instruction and recipes and was published by a food manufacturer. Many of these student-oriented recipe booklets were also published by trade organizations.

The National Dairy Council published quite a few recipe booklets that stressed the importance of milk and other dairy products as a part of a healthy diet.

I came across another one of their publications, Uncle Jim's Dairy Farm (1963, 24 pages), that wasn't a recipe book at all. Instead, it's a story about two city children, George and Betty, who go to spend the summer with their country cousins Andy and Jane, who live on a dairy farm.

This booklet was probably written for the 1st or 2nd grade level and was used as a teaching aid by elementary school teachers in their nutrition education activities.

This booklet was only one of several nutrition education booklets the National Dairy Council published from the 1940s through the 1960s. Other titles include:

  • My Friend the Cow
  • Milk for You and Me
  • When I Grow Up
  • Our Food, Where It Comes From
  • Hello U.S.A.
  • Is It True?

Uncle Jim's Dairy Farm was also produced as an educational film. I was tickled to find out that I could watch the old film right here on my computer.

Watching and listening to it now eerily takes me right back to the old school classrooms and auditoriums of the 1960s when the teacher would roll in the film projector from the audio-visual closet, turn out the lights and subject the entire class to some rather lame productions (which seemed overly simplistic even back then). While I don't have any recollection of this particular film, I do remember one about chickens.

An article in a 1954 issue of the Journal of Home Economics suggests how the film could be used as a social studies activity:

Either the study of farm animals or where our food comes from could stimulate an interest in milk and the milk products. The films "Our Foster Mother" and "Uncle Jim's Dairy Farm" could be shown. This would be an excellent opportunity to encourage drinking milk, and the teacher and pupils might plan a party with everybody being served a glass of milk.
I noticed that the color illustrations in the booklet contain the same people, wearing the same clothing, as in the movie.

Uncle Fred and Aunt Alice's family car looks sort of familiar. My first car, acquired free-of-charge from my parents at age 16, was a metallic green 1963 Chevrolet Impala 4-door hardtop that looked similar to the car in the photo. What a dinosaur I thought that car was!

Shown below are some cover photos of the other eductional booklets. My Friend the Cow is by Lois Lenski, one of my favorite children's book authors and illustrators.

July 04, 2008

Early Armour Products

I'm always curious about food products from the past and my collection of advertising cookbooks provides me with a great deal of information on the subject. Had I the resources and the space, I would probably be collecting vintage product packaging along with the cookbooks.

Sometimes the illustrations in these old cookbooks and recipe booklets provide me with a glimpse of the actual products and their packaging that I wouldn't be able to find elsewhere.

Armour and Company published a booklet, The Business of Being a Housewife - A Manual to Promote Household Efficiency and Economy (1917, 60 pages) that contains several nice illustrations of their ham and bacon products and some of the products from their Veribest line of foods.

Armour's Veribest Sliced Bacon

Armour's Star Ham and Bacon

Armour's Veribest Canned Meats, Fish, Vegetables, Evaportated Milk, Ketchup, and Peanut Butter

Armour's Veribest "Simon Pure" Leaf Lard

Armour's Silverchurn Oleomargarine

Armour's Bouillon Cubes

Armour's Extract of Beef

Armour's Veribest Eggs and Cloverbloom Butter

Armour's Grape Juice

Armour's Canned Florida Yellow Cling Peaches

Armour's Devonshire Farm Style Sausage and Sausage Meat

July 02, 2008

Italian From a Jar

I use Prego Spaghetti Sauce because that's what the person I cook for prefers. It wasn't the pasta sauce of his childhood because he was well past his youth by the time Prego was introduced in 1981. Besides, his mother cooked everything from scratch (although it appears from her old recipes and his sister's cooking that Velveeta cheese and evaporated milk may have been the exception to that rule).

I like the original style Prego well enough, better than a lot of the other jar sauces that I've tried over the years. It seems a bit sweeter than some of the others and the spices aren't too spicy.

My sister prepares an elaborate, time-consuming sauce from a recipe she got from Maria, her Italian mother-in-law. It takes her the good part of a day to make it. It tastes good to me but all that effort would be wasted around here.

I guess opinions vary from one Italian to another. Maria would die before she served her five boys sauce from a jar. In the early eighties I worked for an Italian man who advised me that Prego, with the addition of a little extra chopped onion and garlic, tasted just as good as his mother's recipe. While I'm equally happy to eat sauce from Maria's recipe (that someone else has prepared), I'm partial to just taking Pete's word for it when I pour that Prego out of the jar into the pan.

If I ever make it to Italy, I'll be able to form my own opinion in the matter, that is, if I can tear myself away from the Italian leather shoes and purses long enough to eat.

Prego Easy Italian Recipes (1994, 92 pages) is one of those cookbooks you get from the supermarket checkout line. It contains 60 recipes that are easy enough for the beginning cook. They're similar to the recipes one might find on the jar labels. Most of them can be prepared in less than 30 minutes.

There are $4.45 worth of coupons inside for Prego and other products made by the Campbell Soup Company. Sometimes I find coupons with no expiration dates inside these older cookbooks, but these expired in December of 1996. Back then, at least around here, the intense competition between supermarkets meant they were tripling coupons every day. That means these coupons would have been worth $13.35. If you actually used all these products in your cooking, you could have made money by purchasing this cookbook. Nothing wrong with that.

Besides using all varieties of Prego Spaghetti Sauces, some of the recipes also call for other Campbell's products: Campbell's Soups, Marie's Dressing and Dip, Pepperidge Farm Stuffing Mix, Swanson Chunk Chicken, Vlasic Peppers and Vlasic or Early California Olives.

I sell quite a few of the Campbell's Soup cookbooks. If you're a person who likes those, then you would probably like this Prego cookbook too.

Here's a recipe for Baked Ziti from the cookbook that's similar to the recipe I use. This is one of the few recipes in the cookbook that take more than 30 minutes.

I had never fixed Ziti before watching the Sopranos and hearing Bobby going on about Karen's last ziti. (I could see myself doing something like that.) One day, during a mental block in preparing my shopping list, I remembered Karen's ziti and decided to see what all the fuss was about.


1 jar (28 ounces) PREGO Traditional Spaghetti Sauce (3 cups)
1-1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (6 ounces)
5 cups hot cooked ziti macaroni (about 3 cups dry)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

In large bowl, combine spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and macaroni. Spoon into 2-quart oblong baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and Parmesan cheese.

Bake at 350°F. for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbling. If desired, garnish with tomato slices and fresh basil.

Makes about 6 cups or 4 main-dish servings.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Make-ahead tip: To freeze, prepare ziti but do not bake. Cover tightly with foil and freeze. Bake frozen ziti, uncovered, at 350°F. for 1 hour or until hot and bubbling. Or, refrigerate 24 hours to thaw. Bake thawed ziti, uncovered, at 350°F. for 45 minutes or until hot and bubbling.


In 4-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, cook 1 pound ground beef and 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup), until beef is browned and onion is tender; stirring to separate meat. Spoon off fat. Stir in spaghetti sauce, 1 cup mozzarella cheese and macaroni. Spoon into 3-quart oblong baking dish. Sprinkle with cheeses and bake as directed. Makes 6 main-dish servings.


Sometimes, depending upon the price, I purchase Prego in larger jars than I need. I use the extra as a dipping sauce for Toasted Ravioli, or heated up straight out of the jar and served over a side dish of spaghetti when I make Pork Schnitzels topped with ham and Swiss cheese.